Home / Concert Reviews / Melt 29 w/ Lorn, Dolor, adoptahighway and The Demix @ Stonefly Brewing Company
Monday, Sept. 30, 2013

Melt 29 w/ Lorn, Dolor, adoptahighway and The Demix @ Stonefly Brewing Company

Sept. 27, 2013

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Four Men with Laptops.

Were subtitles things the organizer of the nigh-monthly Milwaukee Electronic & Experimental Music nights to give his diverse and sometimes revelatory event, the above would befit the 29th one that occurred last Friday at Stonefly Brewery: four guys, each with his own portable computer and its own universe of unworldly sounds emanating from it.

Because no one in the audience could see exactly what each dude was doing at his respective keyboard and monitor, a sense of mystery pervaded each time one of the quartet on the bill took the stage and stood behind the table where the four instruments were lined up in a row. Just how much was each headliner (they all took roughly the same amount of time) doing behind that screen and above that keypad? How much was programmed already; how much was on the fly? Important as those questions may have been, the one aspect beyond the music by which to assess what each MELT participant was doing is what each did in the limited space in which they could operate.

The organizer of MELT, The Demix, got all herky jerky in his interaction with the sheens and shards of musical attack originating from his stationary ax. In an almost shamanistic manner, it was as if he were negotiating an exorcism between himself, his instrument and those assembled to witness—and, eventually, dance to—his machinated grooves that hovered somewhere on the periphery of drum and bass and industrial, with the briefest of interludes to a more organic (or more organic feeling, anyway) soulfulness (and with bits of vocal who-knows-what interspersed amid it all). Exactly who was being exorcised of what became almost immaterial as Demix worked his magic into increasingly intense, nearly seamless sonic highs until they would drop into the echoes of the crowd's collective memory. A brief shout to the crowd when he mentioned a brief malfunction added some real-time humanity to Demix's opening assault.

"Human" makes for an apt descriptor as any for Barry Paul Clark, AKA aoptahighway, The Demix's fellow Milwaukeean, who was playing his seventh MELT event that night. Clark/highway was the only one of the evening's acts to introduce himself and mention his merchandise table, both in an unassuming fashion. With those formalities out of the way, he let loose with morphing, sweeping soundscapes cinematic in their breadth and grandeur, building at  steady pace to a mid-tempo danceable quality. The brief presence of what sounded like a comatose harmonica made for an almost comical respite. It served to counterpoint the overall melancholy of the music, a feeling abetted by found vocals and Clark's live ones; those alternated between musically inchoate groans and moans and actual lyrics, though both were buried a bit into the mix and treated by the effects of by a mixing board he would manipulate with one hand while the other would handle his computer. As for the latter, whereas Demix seemed at times to be toying with by his instrument, Clark’s gesticulations gave the impression of a man attempting to contain the power of a mighty mechanism before him.

Dolor, conversely, evinced more of a copacetic co-operation with his equipment. He would bop and duck something like a boxer along to the sometimes trip-hoppy concoctions he was pouring forth, occasionally standing back with hands raised as if caught up by the Holy Spirit at a Pentecostal church service. The closest thing to preaching coming from Dolor, however, were couplets by the rappers he sampled, most noticeably Busta Rhymes’ staccato flow. Certain spiraling riffs he insinuated throughout his set summon the nearly unspoken connection between  contemporary, synth-heavy African-American popular music and progressive rock's penchant for sonic exploration. By the time Dolor came on, the lip of Stonefly's stage was becoming heavier with dancers, and his seemingly easygoing demeanor seemed to have encouraged the interaction. His hands and stretches of his body language signaled that he was coaxing the music out, his computer like the wheel for the clay of his music.

Contrasting with Dolor's composed countenance, evening closer Lorn sported a wide grin in a sort of triumphal giddiness. Throughout much of his set, which shared commonality with adoptahighway in that broke into individuated pieces instead of one continuous mix, his hands were positioned close to each other as if to mimic an equestrian holding the reins on a horse at  full gallop. The smile he maintained for much of his  performance and flowing black scarf positioned on, around and off his equally dark T-shirt, gave the impression of an adventurer riding his lushly fuzzy, melodically discordant post-dubstep compositional leanings into a pleasantly cathartic darkness. It's a winning enough combination to have netted him a contract with internationally renowned EDM label Ninja Tune. Alas, he didn't bestow his own vocals on his work tonight, as he dos on his latest album, Ask The Dust, but the energy he exhibited behind his laptop (emblazoned with "KNIFE" in a rough font on its cover) fairly compensated for that lapse.

From the close of Lorn's set, bar time hit Stonefly in short order, and from there, the wait until next month's MELT.
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